Friday, July 29, 2011


And now a moment of silence for the passing of a dinosaur. Not the last of its kind, but at one time a large and fearsome beast, now reduced to a blind, stumbling hulk gasping out its last days in the desert of uncaring commerce. Borders, once the purveyor of authors’ dreams along with the books you could hold in your hand, now and forever out of business.

What of the authors whose books once graced the shelves in Borders’ many shelves? The publishers, editors, agents, cover artists and assorted others associated with the actual production of books? With some exceptions, for anyone under the age of oh, say, thirty right now, the answer is a profound “Meh.” Add a shrug if you want.

Oh, but there’s still Barnes and Noble, you say. Books-a-Million. Even Walmart. Uh-huh. And a few small, dedicated independent bookstores still survive at minimal profit, too. And the libraries, God bless ‘em, keep fighting the good fight for shelf space while ebooks, DVDs and outreach programs compete for budget dollars.

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite, Amazon, swallows the reading world. After all, what’s not to love? You can order real books and have them delivered anywhere in days. You can download ebooks to your Kindle or Ipad or phone and read them in seconds. You can self-publish your novel. You can distribute your digital novel to a worldwide audience. And soon, you will be able to publish your romance novel through Amazon’s own publishing line.

You don’t have to have lived through the days of the robber barons and their monopolies of railroads, steel and coal to know that there is something wrong with this picture. Barnes and Noble is barely holding its own against this juggernaut. Books-a-Million, Costco and Walmart survive because they are warehousing/ discounting-type operations. They sell large numbers of certain kinds of books that are guaranteed to make a profit. Forget the mid-listers in that scenario. And as soon as the book department starts losing money it will be shut down.

The closing of the Borders in my town of approximately 100,000 people means we will be without a bookstore. At least for a while. Books-a-Million plans to take over the recently closed Joseph-Beth bookstore in a few months. Walmart has books. We have a used/rare bookstore downtown. That’s it. Nothing else between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia.

Suppose for a moment that Amazon decides they don’t want to play nice anymore. (That assumes, of course, that they have been playing nice so far.) They can raise prices to whatever they want. They can refuse to carry books from this publisher or that one. They can refuse access to this author or that one. They can drop certain books and manipulate prices and promotions to encourage sales of others.

Who is going to stop them? Consider that even the people who would normally be in competition with Amazon (epublishers, for example, who have their own “distribution” sites), have agreements with them to expand the sales of their ebooks. The old rules against monopoly and restriction of trade apparently don’t apply. Yet. And by the time the powers that be figure out new rules, it may be too late. The power to make all the decisions will be concentrated in the hands of a very few—or maybe even just one.

So take a moment to mark the passing of this skeletal creature as it shuffles off into the distance. We know not what skulks at its heels.

Donna’s Journal
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

Well, I’m no Stephen King or J.R. Ward, y’all. When I go on vacation I actually, uh, vacate. (Did you know that Stephen works every day except his birthday and the Fourth of July? The Fourth of July? Really? Why not Christmas? Or Halloween? I don’t think J.R. ever takes a day off.)

But when I got back I finished up the revisions on Trouble in Mind and will be sending it out to my enthusiastic, but way-too-honest agent friend for her reading pleasure. Also to my beta readers (look out, you two), who now no longer have the excuse of the NY conference to escape the task of reading the manuscript. Then I go back to work on the first draft of Fools Rush In, the third book in the series. Really need to make some progress there.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

Thanks to Barbara Elsborg and D.L. Jackson, both experienced and multi-published e-writers, for their feedback regarding my thoughts on whether to go digital in my last journal post. Your comments were invaluable, ladies. I’m still mulling it over, getting closer each day. Thanks, too, to Laurie, who I know is also having the same kind of thoughts.

Cheers, Donna

Monday, July 25, 2011

Laurie's Journal

Happy Monday, everyone!

I'm short on time yet again this week.  I have a lot going on behind the scenes.  Some good...some not so great.  But that's okay, I'm a writer.  I'll persevere!  :)

So although I don't have much to say today, I'd like to share something exciting and inspiring with you that I just located on YouTube after hunting for three weeks.  (I KNEW it would turn up!)

This was the opening clip to the 2011 Golden Heart/RITA Awards Ceremony this year and it highlights one of our favorite things--HEROES!--and even captures a couple of my favorite SFR leading men.  Now, how cool is that?

Here you go.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Last week I blogged about "When Careers Collide" in my weekly Mission Success writer's journal. 

Here's a few photos to put a visual on what was happening in Los Alamos (and throughout our state) while I was attending RWA Nationals. The most serious situation was when a major wildfire entered the town of Los Alamos and threatened one of our national laboratories. 

It's easy to see from the photos why this mission was named Operation Red Sky.  The fire is still burning, but critical structures are out of danger and it is more than 50% contained. 

[Photos arrived via email so I can't give credit to the exceptional photographer.]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Donna’s Journal
Special Post-Conference Edition

Well, the 2011 RWA National Conference in New York City has come and gone. And if we didn’t get everything we wanted out of our time in Gotham, surely we each came away with something of value—a friend made, a contact secured, a piece of information or a nugget of wisdom to add to the storehouse.

Certainly there was plenty of inspiration in the stories of the women (and men!) addressing the gathering from the stage, especially the legendary Sherrilyn Kenyon and Diana Gabaldon. Those two succeeded despite overwhelming odds and began huge mega-trends in romance—paranormal romance and time-travel Highland romance. They were groundbreakers, pioneers, and, in Diana’s case, unique. As we in SFR can appreciate, life on the frontier was none too comfortable. It’s nice to hear the rest of civilization sometimes does catch up to the explorers.

On a more personal note, I had a blast tagging along with superstars Laurie and Sharon on their Golden Heart tour de force during the conference. Thanks, ladies, for making my time special, too!

I reported last week on one of my agent meetings, which, though enthusiastic and positive, failed to yield an actual contract. That agent lurrved my stuff so much she requested to read my second manuscript just for fun, even though she admitted, “I know it’s selfish of me, but I can’t help it—I just want to read it!” Guess that’s good, huh?

My “cold” pitch to an agent during the standard pitch sessions also went well, with the agent responding with interested questions in all the right places. Her take on the market for SFR was not quite so bleak, but I would describe it as cautious, depending perhaps on the individual book. She did ask for a partial, which I sent off as soon as I got home.

So last week was spent cleaning up Trouble in Mind to send to Agent Number One, checking email for response to the partial from Agent Number Two (foolish that, it’s way too early) and considering the question of the hour:

To epub or not to epub.

Once again at this conference I spoke with many authors of such digital publishers as Samhain and Carina Press who are very happy with their editors, their publishers and their epub royalties. It’s very clear that these editors and publishers are very SFR-friendly; you don’t need an agent to submit to them; and the process at all stages of production is as smooth as it can be when many people are involved in a creative enterprise.

So what am I waiting for? Not sure, except that I’ve always wanted that traditional print career, and I’m stubborn about it. I know I can move from digital to print with someone like Samhain, too. But I never saw myself working out all these deals, either. It’s bad enough I’ll have to do all my own promo (which I would have had to do with any kind of book). Now I have to do my own career negotiating and strategizing, too? **sigh**

I know, I know. Put on my big girl panties and deal, right? It’s a brave new world and all that. I do feel like I’m a step or two closer to taking that leap into the unknown after this conference. There are only so many agents out there (and I’ve been through most of them). And this series could find a cozy home at a digital house while I write a more salable series for print publication elsewhere. The credentials wouldn’t hurt.

Maybe if my epublisher could just print out one copy so I could have my dream of holding my published book in my hands. Holding it on my Kindle just wouldn’t be the same.

(I’ll be on vacation in North Carolina next week. Check you back here in two weeks.)

Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When Careers Collide

My Mission Success journal this week will be at least a two-part entry due to time constraints.  (I'm a willow--I can bend.)

RWA Nationals was an amazing, high energy experience--my first as a Golden Heart finalist--and a time I'll never forget.  Along with a special retreat, workshops, group dinner, events, rehersal and celebrations, it also gave me a taste of what it's like to juggle two careers. 

As I was enroute to Newark, I learned a wildfire back home was threatening a major nuclear labratory.  At The Golden Network Retreat the next day, word came that the city of Los Alamos and the lab were being evacuated.  Very sobering news for anyone living in my state, but even moreso for a person responsible for the budget of an emergency response agency who is most definitely out of the office, and with just days left in the fiscal year to correct it.

As it turned out, the fire didn't destroy the lab, and although some homes in the area were burned it wasn't the absolute nightmare scenario it could have been and sufficient budget was secured just minutes prior to the deadline. *whew*  With a few breaks for phone calls and emails to answer questions and provide information--and a great lesson in how to compartmentalize while devoting necessary attention to both events--I was able to do a bit of long distance consulting.

As a writer, and hopefully soon-to-be author, learning to balance two careers is an important part of my education, so 2011 RWA gave me a valuable life lesson in addition to the tsunami of writing-related information.

I'll be back later with a few tidbits from Nationals and what I came away with.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I hope you all had a chance to hop over to the Science Fiction Romance Brigade site and check out Laurie’s post Could SFR the NBT and How Might We Get There? Laurie raises some intriguing issues and makes some great suggestions for how we could move forward over the next year in promoting the SFR cause.

My experiences at the RWA Conference in New York had me thinking about the future of SFR, too, but my take on things was much less action-oriented and much more philosophical. Let me start at the beginning and you’ll see what I mean.

Back when I thought I wanted to be a straight-up science fiction writer, I used to regret that I’d missed the early days of SF, the so-called Golden Age, when legendary magazine editors like John Campbell actually paid for SF stories, dozens of “fanzines” run by teenage geniuses like Harlan Ellison put out reviews and stories of their own, the science was accessible and the covers lurid. All that opportunity, I thought!

I glossed over the difficulties those early authors faced—finding “real” publishers for their novels, overcoming the “pulp fiction” designation the literary establishment had given them and the total lack of opportunity for women in the genre in those early days. (We forget that Bradbury and Asimov weren’t always considered literary giants, worthy of being taught in schools. They used to be the male equivalent of romance writers.)

Now here we are at the beginning of an era, on the cusp of something great. All the opportunity is out there for those of us who are creating the SFR sub-genre. If it succeeds, people will look back on this time and say, “Boy, wouldn’t it have been great to have been there!” But it doesn’t feel so great. It feels like a lot of rejection and struggle and naysaying.

I met with one agent at the conference, who was kind enough to spend time reading my manuscript Unchained Memory. She was enthusiastic and supportive and she gave me some great, specific feedback. She loved me. She loved my writing. She loves SFR in general. But she regretfully declined taking me on as a client. Why? She doesn’t believe SFR will sell to the big print publishers. To the digital market, yes. But, as she was honest enough to point out, I don’t need an agent for that.

Other folks I talked to weren’t quite so frank in their assessment. There was a lot of “well, it depends on the book,” or “nothing is selling well these days”, but it was clear we still have a long way to go before the NY establishment is enthusiastic about SFR. The powers that be will grudgingly make room for science fiction elements in a YA tale or in erotica, perhaps, or in a romantic suspense thriller, as long as we’re talking alternate universes or mad scientists, not aliens and spaceships. We’re just not there yet.

I suspect we are in that dark place before the dawn of enlightenment where Sherrilyn Kenyon or Christine Feehan found themselves before the breakthrough of paranormal romance. Those authors, now universally acknowledged as the writers who created the paranormal craze, were served with rejection after rejection from agents and editors who insisted that vampires and Dark Hunters were not the least bit sexy. But as we like to say in martial arts, timing is everything. Today both of these authors hit the NY TIMES Bestseller List with every new book they write, and Sherrilyn Kenyon caused a fan sensation at the RWA Literacy Signing both last year and this.

Someday someone is going to write the breakout novel that will light the blaze of SFR, and we can all hope to catch that comet’s tail. Until then we can follow the strategies Laurie and others have laid out in her Brigade post. And do what writers do—keep writing.

Cheers, Donna
(I’ll return with a new journal post next week.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Laurie's Journal

My Mission Success journal is pulling double-duty today. Since it seemed very appropriate for the SFR Brigade, it's posted over yonder > > >  Could SFR be the NBT and How Might We Get There?

I'd love anyone with an interest in SFR to chime in with thoughts, comments, ideas...a recipe for low calorie Romulan Ale, or what have you.

I'll be back next week to talk about my personal RWA Nationals experiences and insights, along with a list of :

"Things I Must (or Must Not) Do for RWA Next Year." 

Sharon and Donna, it was fun!  I hope it's not another whole year before we see each other again.